The importance of talking, reading, drawing, counting

Did you know that learning to read, write and do maths starts at birth? Many of the everyday activities you do with your baby or young child helps make connections in their brain and gets them ready for literacy and numeracy. There are many different ways you can help your child develop a love for reading, writing and mathematics in their early years - talking, reading, playing, singing, counting games. The golden rule is – keep it fun for everyone.

How can I help my child get ready for reading?

Children first learn about language, and this prepares them for reading. Talking and singing to your child builds pathways in their brain that will help them learn to understand what you are saying and how to talk. All of these fun activities will help:

  • rock your baby in rhythm to music
  • sing songs and oriori (lullabies), and say rhymes to them
  • talk with your child often – chat about their day, describe what is happening and ask them questions.

When they get older you can:

  • play fun word games such as Simon Says, I Spy – and rhyming words
  • sing songs and waiata, say poems and rhymes together
  • help them make up their own stories and songs about everyday things.

Does reading to them help?

Yes, it helps a lot. Your child loves to hear you read to them and this is one of the best things you can do to help them learn about language, learn to read and grow a lifelong love of reading. Here are some tips to make the most of reading to your child:

  • start right from birth
  • make reading a special quiet time with your child
  • read in your own language
  • show your baby picture books and read aloud to them often
  • talk about what’s in the pictures.

They will learn that books, and the words in them can be fun, amusing, comforting and full of excitement and information. Reading – and being read to – is like unlocking a door to learning. It provides access to just about all other knowledge.

Keep reading together as your child grows

  • Have a regular time for reading together and let your child choose their ‘favourites’ – they’ll enjoy hearing you read them again and again
  • Talk about the pictures in books and see if they can guess what will happen next
  • Praise your child when they make a comment or contribution to the story
  • Stop reading when they have had enough – always make reading a fun thing to do
  • Get books from lots of different places - libraries, book fairs, second-hand shops or ask friends and whānau if they have any they no longer need
  • Show your child how useful reading can be. Point out letters and words everywhere – road signs, shop signs, instructions for toys, party invitations, maps, and bus timetables.

Be a role model. Let your child see you reading often – newspapers, books, magazines – this helps your child see that reading is important in your family.

What can I do to encourage writing?

Talking, drawing and making marks leads to writing. Children soon learn that they can make ‘symbols’ such as marks and letters that other people can ‘read.’ This is the start of writing.

Children usually start to make marks and to write before they can read written words. There are lots of ways to encourage early writing.

  • Keep pens, felts, crayons, pencils and paper handy for your child
  • Make letters of the alphabet out of objects e.g. stones, blocks, buttons, shells, Play-Doh
  • Display your child’s work.  Share it with friends, family and whānau
  • Get outside and draw and write with chalk on concrete, use a stick to write in mud, sand or snow. A paint brush with water on the deck is a lot of fun
  • Cover your fridge in magnetic letters
  • Put labels on important things like the door to their room and their toy box. Or write labels in your first language
  • Go on a word hunt. Show your child how to form the first letter of a word they are interested in, then go hunting in your house for other words that start with that letter or sound, or see if they can find them in a book
  • Say the letters in their name aloud.
  • Get them to ‘read’ their early writing to you
  • Write the story they tell you under their drawing
  • Let them see you writing – talk about what you are writing about
  • Look together for writing everywhere – street names, shop names, writing on cars and trucks.

How can I encourage my child in maths?

Having good mathematical skills is important for your child's future - it will help them solve problems and think creatively.  Opportunities to use maths are everywhere. Maths is about counting, measuring, sorting, patterns, numbers, shapes, size and position. It’s easy to include mathematical ideas in your child’s everyday activities and in their play.  You don't need to be 'good at maths' to help your child.

  • Talk about shapes at home - a round plate, an oval frame, a square box. What makes them the same? What makes them different?
  • Make smaller groups from a large group of objects, like blocks. Cut an apple into enough pieces for everyone and talk about what you are doing
  • Play games that get children going over, under, through, behind, above
  • Talk about how things are the same or different. Look for the patterns in leaves or on shells. Match things up – socks, pyjama top and bottom, shoes
  • Find out who’s taller. Have your child and their friends or family stand back-to-back to see who is taller and who is shorter.
  • Work out which lids fit on which pots.

What about teaching numbers?

Children love counting and it’s important your child gets used to numbers because these lead on to most other mathematics skills. Children will often count in order before they understand what the numbers mean.

  • Link numbers with objects to show them what ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’ or ‘five’ means. For instance one nose, one mouth, two ears, two legs and five fingers
  • Read stories and rhymes (eg Three Blind Mice, Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and sing songs that use numbers
  • Count as you walk up and down steps, do up buttons, lay the table, filling their lunchbox
  • Spot numbers on letterboxes
  • Cook – measure the ingredients, share food evenly
  • Listen to music – clap, count and sing the rhythm
  • Shop – count how many cans are in the trolley
  • Build – use building blocks, measure length and height, match size and shape.

Your child learns by repetition. The repeated counting they do in everyday life, like setting the table or getting dressed, helps them to understand numbers.

Do ECE services teach reading, writing and maths?

Children are exploring, experimenting and testing out ideas about reading, writing and mathematics as part of their everyday experience at their ECE services and Kōhanga Reo. Different services have different approaches to literacy and numeracy. Most services will not teach reading as you might be used to, but rather, they use activities to prepare young children for learning to read at school. Some do begin working with the alphabet and alphabet sounds.

You can ask the educator about their approach to literacy. You can help your child’s educator by sharing with them what you have noticed your child doing at home. Ask them what they have noticed and how they are encouraging an interest in learning reading, writing and mathematics with your child.

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